Practicing Physical Distancing again, Part 2. On the sandy old road of Ziethener Straße that becomes a very sandy, frictionless slide of singletrack running parallel to the S-Bahn on the way back to my happy place, those 1200 metres of cobbles along Mozart and Petkusser Straßen. I was having a very good time here, and my only other thought was, “One bidon of electrolyte and a banana is slightly on the thin side for three hours.”
Practicing Physical Distancing again by going for a ride south of the Berliner Mauerweg ’cos it was getting like an outdoor festival along that stretch. Like the virus takes Easter off ’cos, “I respect Jesus when he’s harrowing Hell. Also, bunnies!”?
Plan for the day was around 60 kilometres of riding, following the Mauerweg all the way to the Canal in Lichterfelde and then reversing, mainly ’cos I like riding the roads and trails around Großziethen and want to explore them more, and ’cos the thought of hitting the Mozartstraße cobbles twice. Twice! Today would have been Paris-Roubaix and on the Sunday in Hell we worship cobbles. Plan got bailed on at Marienfelder Allee. I’d already been thinking of finding an alternate route back with all the people, but crossing that highway, both sides of the street lined with people on bikes all jammed up together. 0/10 partaking in that wilful stupidity.
South then, which I kinda know, ’cos I rode through Großbeeren a couple of times before, and was all, “I know here, I think I got lost here,” and fanging eastwards at Frederikenhof (which is on the opposite side of the fields I photographed last week), and riding the prettiest old roads and trails, heading back to those cobbles. There’s another photo, saving that for the next post, just before I turned north on the so sandy it’s a beach without the ocean singletrack, going parallel to the S-Bahn. Much slippy slidey and nearly kissing the floor once. Very wrong tires and tire pressure for that kind of fun. Still fun.
Those cobbles again, hitting them at speed, in the big ring and in a slightly harder gear and just floating over them. Very vibrational floating, but ooh yeah does cobbles riding come alive when you’re going fast. And then on to Kleinziethen (near Großziethen, duh!), and finding the way back to Rudow I’d meant to ride out on. More pretty roads and turning onto Rudower Straße, hitting 3 kilometres of tiny cobbles. I could have ridden the asphalt bike path, or the asphalt bike strip on the shoulder. No, I couldn’t. Bit of a killer in the end, just on and on and getting drained and it was a warm sunny day also, not my ideal riding weather at all, and by the time I was hauling down Neuköllner / Rudower Str. / Buschkrugallee / Karl-Marx-Str. I was feeling it. Not feeling it so much I couldn’t destroy a bro on a fancy gravel bike who tried to chick me at every set of lights from Rudow to Teltow Kanal. Every set of lights. And started shouting at me ’cos apparently chick going faster than bro make bro sadangry? And by ‘destroy’ I mean kept the same pace I’d been on the whole time. Okay, a tiiiny bit extra pace. I’m petty like that.
And photo. Physical Distancing. You may be able to see some people in the distance.
Part three of practicing Physical Distancing by going for a ride along the Berliner Mauerweg.
This photo is never going to do justice to the insane yellow-green of the fields, or the empty flat expanse, and if you look really really really close, you’ll see a few people wandering out in it. This was just before I turned off the Mauerweg and took a guess at how to get back to Neukölln. Favourite way of riding, that. So long as the sun was more-or-less behind me, I was going home. My bike’s in truly terrible condition these days, two years now since the last rebuild and I’ve done something like 12,000 kilometres and some of the components have done way more than that. But it’s amazing how it just keeps going (until it doesn’t hahahaha not funny when I’m in the middle of nowhere).
Yes, this is work. I’m still a dancer, and doing ballet barre at home and all the yoga and core and other work is part of it, but doing this kind of physical labour is necessary for me. It feels like after more than twenty years of this, if I stop I’ll fall apart. And I’m very aware of the luxury I have (despite being poor and all the other caveats) to do this, now especially. Let’s talk about Gaza, or white French doctors proposing testing Coronavirus vaccines in Africa, and casually dehumanising a whole continent in the same sentence they do the same to sex workers. Or the massive increase in racism, Islamophobia and Asianphobia (dunno if that’s quite a word but it’s defo a thing), simultaneous with governments pushing through anti-transgender legislation and utterly destroying the arts.
I loved biking through and around Großziethen for the third time in as many weeks and loved seeing so many Muslimah women and families out there. I feel very much calmer getting into Brandenburg seeing them and knowing it’s not all Naziland like Zeuthen was when I last biked that scary town. And as I came back into Neukölln, I saw gangs of cops out, five or six of them at a time, all white, all in stab-proof vests and heavy gear, and all of them doing the intimidation act and harassing brown boys. Yeah, don’t think we haven’t seen that fuckery get dialled up in every country in the last few weeks. It was a good ride, but it’s never not political like this. Every time I go out, it’s political.
Part two of practicing Physical Distancing by going for a ride along the Berliner Mauerweg.
Going clockwise from Neukölln, it’s all pretty cushy up till Lichtenrade – the whole Mauerweg is pretty cushy, just the distance and very varied surfaces. Around Lichtenrade is the first (optional but not really ’cos we’re here for it) single-track, hard-packed sandy earth alongside fields, shortly after which rail lines cut the Weg and it’s a two-ish kilometre detour into the very pretty and very expensive-looking, most southern suburb of Berlin, along some of the roughest cobbles I’ve ever had the pleasure of being pounded in the arse by. (Hands are not so thrilled with the pounding, but suck it up, hands.)
It’s quite difficult in a photo to make cobbles look as gnarly as they really are, and this final section, looking back up Mozartstraße. from the corner of Beethovenstraße is the smoothest of the lot. And maybe I’ve been riding cobbles so much that I’ve got used to them and know how to ride them, and my memory is more of the thrashing I received the first time than how far from flat and smooth they really are. Anyway, I always wanted to photograph them to remember how much fun I have on them. And every time I hit some cobbles I think there should be a Spring Classic in Berlin, touring the cobbles. This lot would be in, the brutal cobble hill on Wannseestraße by Griebnitzsee also, and the hilariously rough and slippery and corner-y and defo scary when it’s wet and there’s any velocity involved Jägersteig in the forest of Waldgelände Frohnau at the far north of Berlin. Cobbles. Better than asphalt.
Practicing Physical Distancing again. I needed to get out of my apartment, out of Neukölln, out of the city, do some riding, riding until I forget to think (takes at least 45 minutes), not hard riding (which is what Tempelhofer Feld so easily becomes, round and round, pushing pushing).
I got up early with not enough sleep to get to the supermarket before it got too hectic, same young guy working physical distancing out front, stupid white dude inside taking ‘me in mask in the vegetable section’ selfies, holding everyone up. Cannot imagine bro is any kind of influencer. Third week of no toilet paper in any of my usual supermarkets, one said, “Ja, not for another two weeks,” me getting fancy with shower bidet these days. No pasta or beans either.
It took me a couple of hours to get motivated to do the riding, starting again with the dead nice cobbles on Neukölln side-streets as I headed east, then onto the Berliner Mauerweg, which was sort of busier than last week but more spread out, a few stupid white dudes on bikes going way too fast through busy areas or blowing snot from their nose, and then it all quietened down when I went off on a track I’ve never been before, turning left at Dörferblick instead of right, and vaguely heading for Großziethen. That’s part one, anyway, spring in Brandenburg, blue skies after months of grey and damp and cold.
North-west Europeans love silver birch, and German painters love it like no other. There’s this park of them along the Berliner Mauerweg, Südpark, a bit east of Dörferblick, where they’re planted so thickly it’s like a German Impressionist riot. I’ve seen at least one painting somewhere this committed to vertical white lines, not going to get carried away and try to find it.
Doing self-preservation riding again, and avoiding Tempelhofer Feld on the weekend. First, finally did the Weserstr. cobbles, which are dead tasty. Then, did the same ride as last week but in the opposite direction, and when I got to a bit after this photo, turned off to Großziethen, ’cos I thought I might find a way up that massive old rubbish hill from last week. Didn’t. Good ride anyway.
I was going to do some laps of Tempelhofer Feld today, but remembered last weekend when it was fucking packed. Berlin and all of Germany is facing an Ausgangssperre, a proper curfew and lockdown like Italy, and I didn’t and don’t want to add to the problem by being another person at the old airport, irrespective of how much ‘social distancing’ I’m doing, and I don’t want to be counted among those wankers who’ve never learned responsibility and obligation to community.
So I buggered off south down Hermannstraße, hung a left at the border with Brandenburg and practiced self-preservation along the Berliner Mauerweg. People were out, but mostly in ones and twos, or families, plenty of solo cyclists also. Let’s be clear, quarantine at home is going to kill people and ruin the lives of a whole heap more, people who never come into contact with the virus. “Quarantine without testing is a project of social control that transfers responsibility for sickness from states to individuals” which the governments (city, state, federal, EU) have done such a fucking remarkable job of in their deliberate abnegation of responsibility. This is what happens when crisis necro-capitalism meets a real fucking crisis, one that can’t be bailed out or austerity-ed away or debated or ‘both sides’ or any other bullshit jizzed in our faces by the utterly, utterly ineffectual governments and political parties of all the countries hooked on ‘economic growth’ at the expense of actual, real, long-term caring for community. And by ‘community’ I mean everything, trees, land, birds, the sad canal running through Wedding that I love, and not just people, like we’re magically isolated and atomised from what we are inextricably a part of.
The ride curved north and into a dead tasty headwind, pushing me into one of those trances where I get all aero, breathing endlessly and hard and staying in and with that suffering, burdening myself, remembering Annemiek van Vleuten doing her 100 kilometre solo to win the road world championships, Kasia Niewiadoma, Marianne Vos. It’s good to have women whose level of finding joy in suffering is so far beyond mine. It’s so different from cyclocross, those short gut-churning efforts, the exhausting concentration of technical riding at speed and physically maxed out. This is just sticking at it, over and over, getting comfortable in it until it’s over. Riding until I abrade away some of the anger and fear and sadness.
This photo would have been slightly different but my iPhone battery decided to die. Anyway, it’s just south of Freizeitpark Am Vogelwäldchen, which itself is just south of Gropiusstadt, and looking west at the old Mülldeponie Großziethen. That’s not a hill, that’s a rubbish dump!
On the street by the slab of Berlin Wall at the northern gates to Invalidensiedlung Frohnau is one of those orange pillars marking where someone was murdered trying to escape across the Berlin Wall from East Germany. This one is for Marienetta Jirkowsky, who was murdered in 1980 at the age of eighteen, shot in the stomach.
In ten years of Berlin, I think I’ve never intentionally taken a picture of the Berlin Wall. Other things Wall, yes, but the Wall itself still feels oppressively commodified on top of oversimplified significance. Up in Invalidensiedlung Frohnau, about to turn south for the last 40-something kilometre stretch to Neukölln, having a food stop and telling myself it’s not so far, this solitary chunk way out where no tourists would spend an hour just to get get there, it seemed appropriate on the day to take this one photo.